New lodges to open Chile’s Conguillío Park to off-season tourism

Visiting one of the region’s most popular parks during the spectacular autumn months will be made easier with the proposed facilities for 20-35 guests.

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Nearly 17,000 people visited Conguillío National Park, a few hours inland from the southern city of Temuco, this summer season. Clearly, the park is hardly unknown.

What does remain unknown are the park’s attractions outside the high season – particularly the stunning display of colors the appears each autumn amongst the lakes, volcanoes and Araucaría (monkey puzzle) trees that have made the park famous.

While places like Santiago seem to fall accidentally into autumn – the leaves switching suddenly from green to brown before cold weather even really sets in – Conguillío and its environs, stunning throughout the year, put on the kind of show more often associated with the broadleaf forests of North America.

Now Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), which administers the country’s stunning national parks, is seeking bidders for two new lodges within the park that would increase opportunities for tourism in the shoulder season.

Director of the region’s CONAF offices, Roberto Leslie, told La Tercera, “we performed a study of the situation. This park draws high tourist revenues, but seasonally. What we want is to increase visits with bids that allow us to improve our infrastructure and in so doing offer better, more attractive tourist services.”

The two new lodges will be located near the park’s two largest lagoons – Laguna Conguillío and Laguna Verde – both among the park’s star attractions. They will add to the 13 older cabins and 84 campsites already scattered throughout the park, which cater almost exclusively to summer visitors.

The small lodge planned alongside Laguna Conguillío will feature room for 10 guests, a restaurant and a cafeteria. The larger lodge will be located just 10km nearer the main entrance of the park to the south, alongside Laguna Verde and nearer the base of the active Llaima Volcano that forms the park’s southwestern edge. This lodge will have space for up to 25 guests.

“We have to develop technologies to implement services, generators for light, permanent heaters, etc,” in order to make the park’s new lodges comfortable in the colder weather of the southern autumn, Leslie added.

In order to maintain the park’s integrity, the buildings will be restricted to two stories and will have be constructed with sustainable materials to minimize impact on the environment. The initial investment required is estimated at just over US$1 million (CP$800 million). The lodges are expected to be ready for visitors by the middle of 2011. With the opening of these new facilities, CONAF hopes to extend the visitor’s season in the park by at least 150 days.